Cultivating New Leaders

Group of four adult learners listen in class and take notes

Workforce Development has emerged as a vibrant field in professional education and training. In educational settings, workforce development unites the activities of many units, blending academic, career and technical studies, and advising and counseling.

The College of Continuing Education (CCE) at Sacramento State provides a culturally responsive Master of Arts that aligns with the mission of Tribal Nations’ aim of self-reliance and empowerment. The Master of Arts in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies – Workforce Development Leadership program focuses explicitly on cultivating leaders who promote learning, equity, social justice, and achievement for all. Workforce Development Leadership seeks to prepare transformational leaders with the capacity to facilitate, manage, and support personal and professional development in their communities.

Learners work closely with all faculty in the program, including Dr. Geni Cowan (Choctaw/African American). Dr. Cowan has significant experience working with indigenous communities and is particularly knowledgeable about workforce challenges in those communities and ways to address them. In addition to her professorial duties, Dr. Cowan works as a trainer for Tribal TANF case management staff across Indian nations in the U. S. She has provided training for staff and program leaders, conducted program evaluations for a broad spectrum of human services and education units, and facilitated strategic planning and board of directors training for nonprofit organizations. Dr. Cowan has extensive experience in organizing and delivering human services in public and private settings. She is an experienced organizational leader/manager, case manager and counselor, as well as an Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) expert witness. Her research agenda includes indigenous leadership, collaboration between academic services and student affairs, and the roles of community elders in the development of practicing professionals in education. Dr. Cowan holds a doctorate in Confluent Education from the University of California at Santa Barbara and a master’s degree in counseling psychology from the Professional School for Psychological Studies.

“The objective of the curriculum and instruction is to provide learners with knowledge about systems and structures that result in inequity and use that knowledge to create a more just and equitable society,” says Dr. Cowan. “It’s ambitious, but we have had experiences everywhere, including in Indian country, where we have seen how families struggle to gain their footing. And we have seen the effect of workforce development helping folks make their way. People are able to develop job skills that they are then able to utilize to secure employment and support themselves, their families and their communities. We know the potential is there and this program was developed to help individuals, organizations and communities maximize achievement of that potential.”

The Workforce Development Leadership program was developed in response to changing trends of diversity in the workforce and the need to create leaders with the skills and ability to develop and implement strategies and models of inclusiveness in our industries. Learners are taught and equipped with tools and methodologies that they will need to make the change that is necessary for our dynamic and changing workforce. Disparities in opportunity and achievement among learners mean narrowing of career and advancement opportunities.

“In our experience in communities in California and elsewhere, we have observed how workforce development enhances community stability and health,” Dr. Cowan says. “We believe that cultivating local leadership in workforce development will help to maximize local efforts to address access to opportunities.”

Graduates of the Master of Arts in Educational Leadership & Policy Studies – Workforce Development Leadership program will learn to become transformational leaders with the capacity to effectively facilitate and manage change.

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